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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Neymar certain to start for Brazil against Costa Rica: coach    

SAINT PETERSBURG Russia (Xinhua) -- Neymar is certain to start in Brazil’s World Cup Group E match against Costa Rica here despite limping out of training during the week, coach Tite said on Thursday.

Neymar earlier completed a 90-minute training session with Brazil’s squad and looked untroubled by an ankle problem that forced him to leave a practice session early on Tuesday.

When asked if the Paris Saint-Germain forward would be available to play on Thursday were it not a World Cup match, Tite replied: “Yes, yes. It’s not a sacrifice. It’s an evolutionary process, you just speed up the steps. Yes, he would be playing. It’s not a sacrifice.

“We want to win, it’s a World Cup, but the coach is not going to risk a player’s health by being dishonest to him. That’s a price that’s too high to pay.

“Those values of health and honesty, no way, there’s no compromise.”

Tite said last week that Neymar was yet to reach full fitness after undergoing surgery to repair a broken fifth metatarsal in his right foot in March. The 26-year-old spent more than three months on the sidelines before making a scoring return in Brazil’s 2-0 friendly victory over Croatia on June 3.

Neymar played the full 90 minutes in Brazil’s 1-1 draw with Switzerland in their opening World Cup fixture on Sunday, the first time he has seen out an entire match since February.

He was targeted for some rough treatment by the Swiss and the 10 fouls he suffered was the most for any player in a World Cup game since Alan Shearer in 1998.

“He had a knock, but I think it was the first time in three-and-a-half months he played 90 minutes,” Tite said.

“We are calm. Five matches is the minimum you need to be fully fit and he has already sped up the process.”

Serbia, who beat Costa Rica in their first match here, lead Group E with three points while Brazil and Switzerland have one point each.

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UPDATE:

Hazzard says Belgium needs Lukaku to come up in World Cup 2nd game

MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku may have been one of the heroes of the World Cup first round group games with two second half goals helping his side to a 3-0 triumph over Panama, but that didn’t stop him coming in for criticism from Belgium captain Eden Hazzard.

Hazzard said that Lukaku had been “hiding” in the first half against Panama and in an interview broadcast by Sky Sports on Thursday morning he stood by his original words.

“As the captain, I can talk,” he explained. “I try to give my best on the pitch and if I can help players be better then I will,” continued Hazzard.

“I told Romelu (at halftime) that if we wanted to win the game, we need him, not just to score goals, but for him to be involved in the build up and things like that,” he said.

“We talked normally and we won the game and everything was fine,” said Hazzard, who also looked ahead to Saturday’s second Group G game against a Tunisia side that lost 2-1 to England in their opening match.

“If we beat Tunisia we go through, so we need to give everything against them and then we will play England,” commented Hazzard, who was not taking anything for granted.

“You never know what could happen against England, they have good players and they are strong and they can create a lot of chances, so if we beat Tunisia, it will be better for us,” he said.

“Every game in the World Cup is very hard to play and we saw how the reigning champions, Germany lost their first game. We know the quality of our team and the importance of playing together. We’re not just 11 players on the pitch, we are 23 in the group and we need to be united,” he stressed.

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